Bolt was slow out the blocks, but came storming through to win Gold at the London 2012 Olympic 100m. For many lunchbar speakers, especially me, the opposite happens; a strong performance can finish weakly. Why? Let me suggest two causes, and three solutions.
1. My Tail Is Less Evolved! My talks evolve. I write furiously for about an hour, then stop. After a break, I return and develop what’s written, starting from the top, again and again until i’m satisfied. The vocal rehearsal process follows the same pattern, evolving the animal further, until I can deliver it fully without any notes.
But here’s the problem. The evolutionary process, both writing and rehearsing, starts with the head every time. This is the way I work, but also represents my misplaced preference for a dynamic start (‘please like me and listen!’) over a dynamic finish. The result is always less energy and time spent on the tail of the talk, which consequently is less evolved and weaker.
2. Relax, We’re Nearly Home. Driving down unfamiliar roads is much more mentally demanding than a familiar local route. That’s why most road accidents happen within a mile of our homes; we relax and switch off. The same can be true for Lunchbar speaking.
The speaker will spend hours ‘driving around unfamiliar roads’ (researching and writing) as they articulate the objection in the Lunchbar title, identify with their audience, deconstruct the objection and build a strong apologetic for the Gospel.
However there’s often a point when the talk turns from the unfamiliar apologetic to a more familiar Gospel summary. The speaker tragically relaxes (in preparation, if not delivery), because they feel they ‘know the road’ and are ‘nearly home’. Christian ‘in house’ phrases roll out, the tone slides from personable to ‘parsonic’ and the talk crashes into a confusion of furrowed brows and glazed eyes.
1. Let’s Evolve Together. If you have the chance to test out your talk (script, or much better, live) with friends or colleagues, they’ll be in a good position to see which are the stronger and weaker limbs. Ask them to look closely at your tail.
2. Your Home Looks Strange To Strangers. While the speaker may feel most at home with the Gospel (beware domestication…) to those with little experience of Christian things, this is the part of the talk where they feel furthest from home. Let’s work hard to be hospitable! Is there a contemporary analogue to your main point? Is there something familiar to your audience that you can describe first, before transitioning to the unfamiliar Gospel? Tim Keller does this constantly in the Reason For God chapter ‘The (True) Story of the Cross’.
3. Begin with the Finishing Line in Mind. What is your major insight, and how does that change how we think, feel and act? Fix your eyes on that throughout your writing, rehearsing and praying, and constantly ask of each section and sentence, ‘does this take us there?’